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Should I vet applicants on social media?

On Behalf of | Mar 13, 2023 | Employment Law

Most savvy job hunters know that their social media profiles are public, and prospective employers will screen them. Similarly, many hiring managers use the tool to identify red flags or confirm questions about an applicant. The reasons speak for themselves, as it offers a unique view into an applicant’s life.

Studies show that nearly half of employers have rejected applicants based on social media. But is it a good idea?

Due diligence or overreach?

Even just looking at a profile photo gives a wealth of information that may not be included in a resume or cover letter: race, gender, ethnicity and more. Further basic research of a profile can reveal disabilities, religious and political views, sexual orientation, or marital or pregnancy status.

These are topics to avoid in the interview process, yet a few minutes on Facebook or other platforms can reveal that information to a recruiter. Bias is often unintentional, but these factors can subconsciously influence hiring.

Age, disability, national origin, race, religion, and orientation are all protected categories, and workplace decisions based on these statuses will result in legal trouble. While a hiring manager or human resources expert knows how to minimize their own bias, people make mistakes. And many people in a hiring process do not have this formal training.

In fact, some recruiters take extra steps beyond a cursory Facebook review, even going as far as sending friend requests and asking for login or password information. This creates new concerns for an employer and often puts the applicant in a difficult position.

Drawing a firm line

Most people separate their personal and professional lives. There is natural overlap, but also a line between them. Businesses must do the same thing. This can protect the business from overstepping, and it also reduces liability. Few of the details listed above, such as marital status or sexual orientation will affect an employee’s ability to do their job.

With human resource concerns noted, businesses do need to protect their professional reputation. There are countless examples of people making controversial social media statements that negatively affected their employers. Naturally, a business should limit this risk and identify potentially troublesome behavior.

Formal, written formal social media guidelines should be in every employee handbook. If monitoring employee social media is of grave concern to the company, make certain that hiring managers are not the ones to do so. Social media is changing constantly, and state and federal laws, as well as court interpretations of existing laws, are frequently tested in regard to this. Businesses need strong policies and a safety net to reduce their own risk.


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